Manas Ranjan Mahapatra
Prof Manoj Das is the greatest Odia author of national honour I have ever come across. I had an association for almost four decades with this great saint and author. There were two interesting incidents that I want to share with Manoj Readers.
As Programme Director of NBT for Odisha I used to request the state government to declare Chairman, NBT and some eminent members like Prof Manoj Das and Dr JP Das as state guests. At one point of time, Dr Sitakant Mahapatra was also a member and his house at Bhubaneswar was under renovation. I requested Odisha government to declare him a state guest too. The Home Department of the state used to accord that status. It was the year 1997 and Prof Das was at Bhubaneswar to attend the meeting of Odia Advisory Panel.
But they declined to accord that honor and I had to go to the state secretariat.
-‘You should have sent a separate letter for Professor Manoj Das’, the Secretary said.
-’Why’, I asked.
‘The other guest is a government officer and can be declared a state guest if invited for a state government programme. But, Prof Das is a saint- author who stays outside the state. We consider such great people on their individual merit and not on their official status’, he replied.
I wrote a separate letter.
A similar incident occurred in Jammu and Kashmir in the year 2014. The state declined to treat Chairman NBT a state guest. Prof Das was the Chief Guest of the Book Fair there which was eventually inaugurated by the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Prof Das was unable to come on that particular day as Sri Aurobindo Ashram had some other event. He of course agreed to come to grace the ‘Meet The Author’ Programme on the fourth day of the fair. The state declined to treat Chairman and Prof Das as state guests and I went to the Secretariat and met the Chief Minister as we were known each other.
-’You made a mistake Mr Mahapatra The CM said.
-’You should not have clubbed the two names in one single letter. For us NBT Chairman is a government official. But, Prof Das is an author of repute and not a government official. He is an honorable guest for us. I have been reading him for last many years.’ Then he directed his officers to accord the status of a state guest to Prof Das.
I didn’t know that Omar kept details of the events of Prof Das in his state. To our surprise, he came on the day Prof. Das gave a talk in the fair without any schedule and listened to him carefully and silently. Later on, Abdullah visited the fair and bought some books for his personal library.
(The Author Manas Ranjan Mahapatra, former editor of National Book Trust, New Delhi.Views are personal)